New fiction: The Lavender House Mob by Annie Crux (Buried River Press)

9781910208137

The Lavender House Mob

Widowed novelist Louise Gregory is happy enough living alone with her pets at rambling Lavender House in the New Forest, but her life is suddenly disrupted by an unexpected financial crisis and the appearance on her doorstep of her daughter Penny, with her two young children in tow. Thereafter Louise’s life turns upside down: a passer-by, Jack, knocks her off her bike but then comes to her rescue by offering to pay over the odds if she lets him stay; her sister Jane is suffering a mid-life crisis; Penny’s strong-minded mother-in-law, Maggie, arrives; and her home, once a haven of peace and quiet, descends into an hilarious, clamorous B&B.

Despite herself, Louise is attracted to Jack, but, just as quickly as he had arrived, he disappears. Confused and irritated by her dysfunctional family and the feelings Jack has aroused, Lavender House stands as the only constant in Louise’s life, but then her peace is shattered once again. How can she trust a man she thought she knew?

With characters who leap off the page and grab your heart, this story will leave you smiling.

Annie Crux

Annie Crux was born in Hampshire and still lives in the New Forest. She is now widowed and has two children. Before writing she had a varied career as a cabaret singer, a teacher, and then hospital administrator. She has written a number of romances and four mainstream novels, but then took time out to return to the theatre as a director of amateur companies. She has now returned to full time writing.

The Bookseller as Romantic Heroine by Caitlin Raynes

9781910208243What Would Ginger Rogers Do? testifies to a life-long love of bookstores.  I never tire of the smell of fresh print-and-paper spicing the air, and the bright array of appealing dust jackets gleaming.  The titles shelved on those long narrow aisles each seem to whisper Your next favorite book is right here, right now.  Bookshops are physically full of promise and sensory delight, an experience the internet cannot duplicate.

I especially like bookstores with high ceilings, worn wooden floors and a little dust here and there.  The best bookshops are warmly lit, lending a glow to the shelves. No cold, utilitarian fluorescence, thank you. I feel instantly welcomed in bookshops with creaking fans and a bell over the door. These affections are clear from Carter &Co, the bookstore I created for my romantic heroine, Tosca Tonnino.  Tosca’s job at Carter &Co is Events and Publicity, scheduling author events. (These always guarantee sales because writers absolutely cannot walk out of a bookshop empty-handed.  I know this from experience, and I passed that experience on to Tosca.)

In Carter &Co, as in any bookshop, you immediately sense the implied camaraderie between the staff and the customers, confirmed readers, one and all. Or not. Booksellers are also unfailingly kind to those grouchy customers, the non-reader desperate for a gift for Weird Uncle Ned.  As a writer and avid reader, I enjoy conversations with booksellers.  I admire their enthusiasm; their swath of knowledge and taste boggles the mind.   How can they be so well read, and yet work such long hours?  What Would Ginger Rogers Do? is a sort of  love-letter to booksellers in general.

The creative nub of the novel came to me—not surprisingly—from a bookseller.   This woman once placed a book in my hand, and with reverential solemnity said, “Here, take this book.  I promise you will love it. I love it. It’s an incredible novel. I’m so convinced you’ll love it, I’ll buy it back if you don’t.”  Or maybe the shop would buy it back; I don’t remember her exact words. I bought the book. I couldn’t possibly refuse after an intro like that. However, I don’t remember if I liked it. Sad to say, I don’t remember the book at all, not even the title. The incident shines in memory because her gesture made me dream of the day when a bookseller would press a book I had written into readers’ hands, would laud my novel with such conviction and sincerity. (Though I confess that What Would Ginger Rogers Do? is not a solemn novel. Quite the contrary.)

What Would Ginger Rogers Do? is a sassy tale of sex, ambition, and assumptions that all go awry. As Tosca says, “I felt less like Ginger Rogers and more like Tess of the d’Ubervilles: I knew I had been screwed, but I wasn’t sure how it had happened.”

Tosca Tonnino loves the old, romantic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals where Ginger invariably plays  one of those crisp career women, wise-cracking, sure of herself on the dance floor and everywhere else.  Tosca’s own breezy self-assurance, taken for granted in chapter one, is shaken by the arrival of a new co-worker, the brooding Ethan James. Like most romantic heroes as far back as Heathcliff, Ethan James might be best described as tall, dark and surly. Unlike most romantic heroines, Tosca might be best described as a Francophile, flawed, funny and fond of flingettes (this last surely self-explanatory).

Though the old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies are patently false with giddy plots and silly sidekicks, they are redeemed by the timeless music, the beautiful dancing. (As one feminist critic tartly observed: Ginger does everything Fred does, only backwards and in high heels.)   Of course the audience never sees the grueling hours of work that culminate in these famous dance duets, just as the reader never sees the grueling, unromantic  hours of work that go into creating a novel, even a novel as blithe as this one.

What Would Ginger Rogers Do? does not aspire to War and Peace, just as Fred and Ginger films did not aspire to be Ben Hur. Don’t look for chariot races or the Napoleonic wars in these pages.  What Would Ginger Rogers Do? offers readers thwarted romance, an island bookstore, a super-competitive cyclist, a family secret, a literary melee, and pizza. Then too, there’s the irreverent narrator herself, Tosca Tonnino, who will enliven your shuttling, fluorescent-lit Underground commute, brighten a rainy day, or enhance a sunny afternoon.

And should you, Dear Reader, find a bookseller who places my novel in your hand, swearing that you will love this book, please Tweet me immediately. I will Favorite, Retweet and pop open a bottle of champagne, no matter the time difference.

Order your copy of What Would Ginger Rogers do here